Largest Restoration Project in the American West
The 4 Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI) has been created to launch an accelerated restoration program that will restore watershed health and function, improve wildlife habitat, conserve biodiversity, protect old-growth, reduce the risk of uncharacteristic wildland fire and promote the reintroduction of natural fire, and restore natural forest structure and function so that forests are more resilient to climate change.
On a scale never attempted before, the 4FRI spans 2.4-million-acres on the Apache-Sitgreaves, Coconino, Kaibab and Tonto national forests. Appropriately scaled business and industry will likely play a key role in this effort by harvesting, processing, and selling wood products. This will reduce treatment costs and provide restoration-based work opportunities that will create jobs.
The first project stemming from the 4FRI encompasses an area of more than 750,000 acres. It is expected to be implemented on the Coconino and Kaibab national forests in 2013. The project will use a variety of tools, including mechanical thinning and prescribed fire, to achieve landscape-scale forest restoration. Expectations are to treat as many as 30,000 acres per year during a 20-year period.
Reducing the threat of high-intensity, destructive wildfires has been the focus of National Forest managers in northern Arizona for years. While projects have been successful at local scales, the acres treated have not been sufficient to significantly prevent large-scale fires. At the same time, the general public has become increasingly aware of the importance of a restored and resilient forest ecosystem. There is wide-spread understanding that northern Arizona's forests are unnaturally dense, which sets the stage for high-intensity wildfires and subsequent insect and disease outbreaks.
The Arizona Governor's Forest Health Council was formed in 2003 to address these issues. In 2007, the Council completed The Statewide Strategy for Restoring Northern Arizona's Forests, a document that demonstrates broad support in Arizona to develop and implement landscape-scale restoration efforts that will protect communities and improve forest health and sustainability. These efforts also will provide economic opportunities to local communities through the utilization of forest products. See the small-diameter wood study analysis as an example.
The 4FRI mirrors these goals and is aimed at collaboratively designing a multi-decade restoration program to treat, through mechanical thinning and prescribed burning, a significant number of additional acres of National Forest lands.
This effort also builds on the previous collaborative work conducted under the Kaibab Forest Health Focus.
Currently, the Apache-Sitgreaves, Coconino, Kaibab and Tonto national forests are actively engaged in a collaborative, landscape-scale initiative designed to restore fire-adapted ecosystems in the Southwestern Region. Together with a broad group of stakeholders, including members of local, county and state governments, scientists, environmental groups, ranchers and industry representatives, the forest supervisors are working to determine how to collectively accelerate landscape-scale restoration of ponderosa pine forests in northern Arizona.
For additional information, please visit the U.S. Forest Service 4FRI website